I spin around in my chair to catch Bloxsom-Carter pulling out drawer after drawer of desserts, including brownies, peanut butter–and-jelly cookies, marshmallow treats, and Hefner’s all-time favorite, crispy oatmeal cookies. Bakers on the graveyard shift craft all of the desserts and breads fresh daily, while chefs on the daytime shifts prepare most everything from scratch, right down to the stocks and pastas, and even run an on-site butcher operation.
Bloxsom-Carter oversees all of the mass-scale catered events hosted at the mansion, as well as the daily dining requirements of Hefner and his personal guests. Although the estate serves as Hefner’s primary residence, its food service functions more like a private hotel than a traditional home.
“We have a catalog of 31 meals from which Mr. Hefner can request what he’d like to eat at any time of the day or night,” says Bloxsom-Carter. “So he can call down to the kitchen and say, ‘I’d like the number 6 [grilled cheese sandwich, potato chips, applesauce, and two oatmeal cookies], or the number 21 [fried chicken strips, baked potato, caper dip, and two oatmeal cookies],’ and then the butlers communicate that to us.”
Hefner is very particular about his daily meals and the times at which they are served. He enjoys exactly the same breakfast at 11:30 a.m. every daya jelly doughnut from famed L.A. donut shop Winchell’s and half a Star Ruby grapefruit. For lunch, it’s soup and crackers, delivered at 5:30 p.m. to the resident night owl. “It’s a little embarrassing because we do such insane, great food for the guests who come on the property,” Bloxsom-Carter confesses, “but he’s just a regular Midwestern gentleman who likes his Lipton noodle soup with his saltine crackers”daily.
Dinner is served at 10:30 p.m., and it’s one meal in which Bloxsom-Carter can really exercise his culinary prowess. “The lambs in Colorado and California are very worried about Mr. Hefner,” he jokes. “Lamb chops are his favorite meal, and he has that for dinner once a week.” The frenched lamb chop dinner, the recipe captured start-to-finish on the following page, is a famous staple at the mansion and is often a fixture on upscale party buffets.
Hefner dines on other Midwestern favorites, such as fried chicken or pot roast and mashed potatoes, all of which are inspired by his mother’s original recipes. Bloxsom-Carter has made a concerted effort to balance the heavier meats and starches in Hefner’s evening meals with California’s freshest vegetables and olive oils, while also striving to reduce Hefner’s sodium intake since his stroke in 1985.
“Even though I’m not a licensed nutritionist, I use my culinary tricks to get the amount of sodium under control while still giving him the desired flavor,” he says. “You can trick the palate with acidity or vinegar in place of salt.” Bloxsom-Carter’s self-described Mediterranean approach to cooking is evident in the countless menus he prepares for Playboy Enterprises’ executive luncheons and dinner parties, including the lunch I enjoyed with him and Playboy CEO Scott Flanders on the day of my visit. We dined on tuna tartare with avocado mousse, lobster ravioli with black cherry tomatoes, and a sesame pear tart with strawberries and fresh mint oil, as the companion slideshow illustrates.
Bloxsom-Carter has been at the forefront of the Playboy Mansion’s vast food-service operation since 1986. His background is in restaurants, having worked his way up through the ranks rather than attending formal culinary school; instead, he credits popular Japanese-American chef and restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi as his main mentor. So how did he land a job that might make a teenage boy blush? By applying to a blind ad in the Los Angeles Times titled “Major West Coast Operation Seeks Executive Chef.” After a six-week interview process, Bloxsom-Carter was handed the reins. Through the years he has turned the mansion into a culinary powerhouse, running a tight ship 24/7, 365 days a year.
Organization and attention to detail are critical to his operation, which begins each day with a 6:30 a.m. staff meeting. Chefs and sous-chefs are responsible for filling out kitchen logs every eight hours, filed for Bloxsom-Carter’s review. The documents include elaborate updates on the working status and temperature readings of all refrigerators, freezers, and ovens, as well as the routine changing of the ice upon which fish and shellfish are stored. Chefs are also required to complete a fresh-egg inspection in which they pierce the shell of an egg with a thermometer to ensure they have been delivered within the food-safe temperature range of 38 to 40°F.